The “Great War” was over, and US military officers were returning home. Their Commander-in-Chief, General John J. Pershing, counseled his wartime leaders, “…May I ask that you carry home your high ideals and continue to live as you have served,” and many veteran officers sought to fulfill that request. Recalling veteran military officer organizations from earlier wars, such as the Society of the Cincinnati [Revolutionary War] and the Order of the Loyal Legion [Civil War], many returning officers wished to form their own order, serve their communities, and maintain the fraternal bonds forged on the battlefield.
To that end, a group of veteran officers formed “American Officers of the Great War” (AOGW) in late 1918. The AOGW was incorporated on 27 January 1919, in Washington, DC. By the summer of 1920, there were Chapters with members from 461 different cities and towns across the United States and in Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Cuba, and other countries.
The first National Convention of the American Officers of the Great War was held in Detroit, MI, from 6-11 September 1920. Members, called Companions, from twenty-two Chapters attended. During this gathering, the name of the Order was changed to “The Military Order of the World War” (The organization is also known as the “Military Order®” and “MOWW®.”) The MOWW flourished, and by 1921 there were fifty-five Chapters countrywide. Led by Major General George H. Harries as the first Commander-in-Chief from 1920 through 1925, the Order weathered organizational and financial issues yet continued to grow.
The Great Depression was a challenge for the MOWW. Patriotism, ensuring an appropriate national defense, confronting the menace of communism, and improving the conditions for disabled veterans became its mission. When the United States was attacked in December 1941, the MOWW and its members offered any service required by the country. During World War II, the Order’s name was changed to “The Military Order of the World Wars.”
One of the Order’s greatest tasks over the years has been promoting patriotism, good citizenship, and individual responsibility. In the 1950s, the “Love of Country and the Flag” project matured into partnerships with JROTC and ROTC programs in high schools and colleges. By 1994, virtually all of the 162 MOWW Chapters were involved.
Other programs include sponsoring Youth Leadership Conferences (YLCs) and supporting the Boy and Girl Scouts at the chapter level. This is an opportunity for MOWW Chapters to recognize outstanding young men and women and teach the values and ideals that have made America great. The MOWW has recognized many national leaders as Honorary Commanders-in-Chief of the Order. They include General John J. Pershing, President Herbert C. Hoover, General George C. Marshall, President Harry S. Truman, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, President Ronald W. Reagan, President George H. W. Bush, and General Peter Pace.
The Military Order of the World Wars continues to embody capabilities and precepts that distinguish it from other veterans’ organizations. The challenge for the Military Order of the World Wars and its Companions in the 21st Century is to continue to serve while remaining true to the mission and ideals developed over its century-long history.